Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We Need a Healthier Understanding of People With ADHD

The collective voice of self-advocates to reframe disabilities seems to continue to gain volume and force.  Below is an excellent Ted Talk by Stephen Tonti about reframing ADHD.

Part way through the video Stephen mentions that he was "lucky" because he had parents and teachers who understood and nurtured him.  He then speaks about Adam and the environment he grew up in and culminates that section of his talk with a statement his teacher made related to whether his medication was working or not: "Adam is less motivated, less animated and less involved in class... but at least he is quiet."  At this point, Adam is an adult and although the statement could be analyzed and/or judged, I think the point of the matter is that Adam is an adult and this is still such a part of his narrative that he sits around with his roommate discussing it.  Stephen speaks of his many explorations throughout his childhood while it seems that Adam remembers disciplinary actions and not living up to the expectation to conform. 

Stephen's plea to develop a healthier understanding of ADHD is not a lone voice.  A while back, I posted a video of Jonathan Mooney speaking to his own experiences and beliefs about how we can create environments that will allow an increasing number of students to develop themselves as effective learners.

Rather than trying to fix students perhaps we should take a lesson from Ken Robinson (video below) and ask "What are the student's strengths and how can they be used to create a sense of connection, worth and self-efficacy?"  Can students really learn if they do not feel good about themselves? 

The reality is that strengths develop as people try to right themselves. The reason people practice or dig in to the thing they love for hours on end is to be able to do it better.  The processes that a person uses to develop their strengths is the critical piece as they will come to see their own autonomous ability to right themselves and these processes can be applied in so many other places. 

The reality is that the motivation to grow and learn for anyone comes from feeling good about oneself.  It seems to be that when supporting students our first question should be "How can we help this student to feel good about themselves?"  That way, eventually we can work with the student to find solutions and draw on the experiences that he/she has in "righting themselves" through strength development.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Inclusion as a Way of Doing Business

Sometimes a passing comment will get a person thinking.  One such comment got me wondering if inclusion is a behaviour or an attitude or perhaps something different all together.  Perhaps it goes much deeper and is a permeation of both thought and action.  Perhaps it is a "way of doing business".

In the book Raymond's Room: Ending Segregation of People with DisabilitiesDale Dileo states that "institutionalized thinking is, at its core, based on the need for people who have a disability to be segregated."  He states that to move away from institutionalized thinking we must consider individualized service-based approaches that happen within the community that already exists rather then creating artificial communities.  Real environments. Real connections. Real contribution.  It is only then that a person can experience the dignity of risk that is such a critical element of authentic learning and autonomous living. Inclusion, in the context of my day to day job, links closely to these thoughts. 

The theory is perhaps hard to apply to education as schools as a whole may be thought of as artificial environments.  Some believe that we need to label and categorize in the hope of minimizing the diversity we need to respond to so that we can operate effective and efficient classrooms.
But labels do have a potential downside. The problem is really statistics 101: whenever you convert a continuous measure into discrete categories, you lose valuable information. Humans are so much more than either "anorexic or "obese", "introverted" or "extraverted", "learning disabled" or "abled", or "gifted" or "ungifted".
When we split people up into such dichotomous categories, the large variation within each category is minimized whereas differences between these categories are exaggerated. Truth is, every single person on this planet has their own unique combination of traits and life experiences.  While this isn't true of objects, such as rocks, books, and television sets, it's true of humans. Which is why we must be very, very careful when we allow labels to get in the way of our perceptions of reality."
Source: Psychology Today: The Pesky Persistence of Labels  
One of the classes I took this summer was on Professional Learning.  The final assignment I did for the class was a literature review comparing the communities of practice approach to adult learning to recommended and researched collaborative practices to support inclusive learning of students with disabilities.  Both approaches are rooted in social learning theory which really depends on diversity.  If we were not each unique we would not be able to construct any more then the knowledge that we currently have.  We learn with each other as much as we learn from each other.

I find myself zooming in and out quite regularly now. What is the big picture of inclusion? How does it apply to my specific context which is related to being part of a team that focuses on minimizing the impact of disability and maximizing participation and engagement for students with complex needs? And as I get closer to finishing my Masters, where does "leadership" fit in to all of that?

In the end, my conclusion is that it is perhaps more about integrity and personal leadership in the moment and context that one is currently in then it is about anything that is too large and complex to understand.  Focusing on a circle of influence rather than a circle of concern. Thinking about the way I do business rather then the way that business is done.  Taking a personal leadership stance tied to what I value and believe and working towards acting from that place. 

Sometimes thoughts come at you at an angle rather then directly. This morning I was reading this post titled 30 Outdated Leadership Practices Holding Your Company Back and came across the chart below.  The idea of "creating a culture of leadership" as opposed to "having a leader" resonated with me as being reflective of what inclusion in the larger context actually is.  So I kept reading and found myself nodding my head with each line thinking that the "new paradigm" is really a paradigm rooted in inclusive practices. 

And then I circle back to thoughts of if this is about behaviours or attitudes or about something a whole lot bigger.  Perhaps the answer is actually rooted in our humanness and how that collides or aligns with our institutional structures.  Perhaps in the middle of initiatives like "Curriculum Redesign" this is already known. 

Zooming out and then zooming in. The big picture is there but at the end of the day, inclusion is about belonging and belonging only happens in the middle of understanding.  Inclusion is not somewhere we are going to "get to" but rather something that we strive towards simply because we are human. It might sit at the core of our being. It seems to go back to our basic needs. 

But that might mean being vulnerable... perhaps even as vulnerable as the students that I learn and grow with every day.
Vulnerability is expressing yourself in a manner that feels right to you even if it doesn't sound right to the rest of society." (Simon Sinek) 
Maybe there is nothing complicated about it at all...

I would never want to be categorized and placed in an artificial community based on my weaknesses or deficits.  I would hope that I would be able to stay in my natural community and those around me would look to find my strengths, passions or interests and then engage with me to figure out how I can use and develop them to more deeply connect with and contribute to that community. I would hope that not just for me, but for every member of that community. I would hope that was the kind of learning that others would support me with because it is the kind of learning that would have the greatest impact on my current and future quality of life.  I would hope that I would have the opportunity to sit on both sides of that learning table and that our community would be an evolving reflection of what we are together rather than what we are as individuals.  I would hope we could move beyond striving for "independence" and aim for "interdependence". 
When I look back on the first 21 years of my career, I see clearly that the world and education and our understanding of "disability" are constantly evolving.  Institutional thinking and packaging people neatly in boxes is being challenged in more than just the disability field.  Perhaps, though it isn't about the challenge. Perhaps it needs to be explored. Perhaps it is more about engaging in the exploration that leads to continued evolution and community building then it is about fighting or challenging it. 

What will it take?  I don't think anyone actually knows that and I don't think the answer can come from anywhere but within the community that engages in a process of moving towards that "new paradigm" outlined above.

My conclusion in the literature review that I spoke of above reads as follows...

At the heart of the social learning theory behind communities of practice sits the theory of Legitimate Peripheral Participation which is rooted in the idea that learning is the process of coming to belong to a community.  Interestingly, belonging is at the heart of the inclusive education movement.  In the quest to find a definition of inclusion, the concept of belonging comes up over and over.

Belonging happens when three conditions occur:
  1. A person feels that they are a part of a larger community.
  2. A person feels they are contributing to that larger community. They are aware that if they were not part of that community, something would be missing from it. 
  3. A person feels free to be themselves. This is fostered through the assumption of competence. Each member in the community assumes competence in themselves and in the other members. 
Research in to both inclusive education and communities of practice reveals similarities in the experience an adult has within a community of practice and a student has within an inclusive school.  Is it possible that the authentic experience of belonging and contributing to a community of practice might be what creates the circumstance to create inclusive schools and classrooms for students?  Parker Palmer sums it up as he concludes his book The Courage to Teach (2007): "If you are here faithfully with us, you are bringing abundant blessing.  It is a blessing known to generations of students whose lives have been transformed by people who had the courage to teach - the courage to teach from the most truthful places in the landscapes of self and world, the courage to invite students to discover, explore, and inhabit those places in the living of their own lives."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Can Learn Society Take Ten Series for Supporting Student with ADHD and Learning Disabilities

Just wanted to share this series from the Can Learn Society as it include so many proactive empowering approaches to supporting students with ADHD and Learning Disabilities.  The videos and the PDF documents outlining information from each are included.
Making Your Instructions Listener Friendly
Reframing our View of ADHD
Helping Students With Self Advocacy
Helping Student With Self Regulation
Supporting Students With
Working Memory Difficulties

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Worth Thinking About - Teacher or Learner?

Reminded me of William Stillman's writing
"The World Needs Autism"

I post a new "Worth Thinking About" question each Sunday. 
In reality, I see them more as "and" statements rather than "or" statements. It is about finding the right balance so that we are being effective in supporting student learning. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

UDL Checkpoint 7.3

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Checkpoint 7.3: Minimize threats and distractions

The Checkpoint on the Universal Design Level

The CAST website lists the following general suggestions for Checkpoint 7.3:
  • Create an accepting and supportive classroom climate where all students feel safe enough to engage/participate.
  • Vary the level of novelty or risk
    • Charts, calendars, schedules, visible timers, cues, etc. that can increase the predictability of daily activities and transitions
    • Creation of class routines
    • Alerts and previews that can help learners anticipate and prepare for changes in activities, schedules, and novel events
    • Options that can, in contrast to the above, maximize the unexpected, surprising, or novel in highly routinized activities
  • Vary the level of sensory stimulation including variation in background noise, visual stimulation, number of features presented at one time
  • Variation in pace of work, length of work sessions, availability of breaks or time-outs, or timing or sequence of activities
  • Vary the social demands required for learning or performance, the perceived level of support and protection and the requirements for public display and evaluation

Building Classroom Community: David A. Levine has the following quote in his book Building Classroom Communities: Strategies for Developing a Culture of Caring.
Without a community you cannot be yourself. The community is where we draw the strength needed to effect changes inside of us. What one acknowledges in the formation of the community is the possibility of doing together what is impossible to do alone. This means that individual problems quickly become community problems. The individual can finally discover within the community something to relate to, because deep down inside each of us is a craving to be honored and be seen for who we are... In community it is possible to restore a supportive presence for one another. The others in community are the reason that one feels the way one feels. The elder cannot be an elder if there is no community to make him an elder. The young boy cannot feel secure if there is no elder whose silent presence gives him hope in life. The adult cannot be who he is unless there is a strong sense of presence of the other people around. This interdependency is what I call support presence. 
We build community when we create safety.  We do this by setting up classrooms with the things in the bulleted list about in mind.  We also do this through the way we interact and the expectations we set up and facilitate in our classrooms.  We do this through listening, showing empathy, knowing, managing and expressing feelings, making and keeping friends, asking for help, helping others, working cooperatively with others, solving disagreements, goal setting, feeling and showing empathy and responding to things that are unjust.

I have created a Pinterest Board on Community Building. It is just a compilation of a variety of ideas related to interactions, routines, team building, social skills, learning/classroom skills...etc. that may help to contribute to creating a safe community for students.

Teaching Math as a Social Activity: The question of when we find the time to cover "Social and Emotional Learning" when we have such heavy curriculum demands is a question I understand well from the 14 years that I spent teaching in grade 7-12 general education classrooms. The following video outlines how one teacher built learning these skills right in to his grade 5 math class. Students play an active role in creating working agreements related to speaking, listening, thinking, behaviour and then set goals and monitor goals tied to how well they live up to the agreements during learning experiences. It is not assumed that students will automatically know how to do things that fall under the social and emotional realm. Time is spent discussing what it looks like, practicing it and debriefing it.  Students having these social-emotional skills, in turn, create conditions for learning. 

There have been many points in my career that I wish for a "do-over" as I learn new things.  In the beginning years of my career I had a rather large high school math class (39 students) and I was finding it difficult to get to all the students in the class.  I felt the only resources that I had to overcome this barrier were the strongest students in the class. So I gave the a pre-test and ranked them in to three ability groups and then create working groups of three students back taking one student from each of the three ability groups and putting them together.  I set them up in groups of three and taught lessons and then had them work with their group on the assignments and projects and preparation for quizzes and exams.  I set up a "bonus mark" system for their unit tests in which they could gain extra marks for their whole group based on the difference between the unit test mark and the base mark that I got from the pre-test at the beginning of the year.  In this way, the student with the lowest mark could contribute the most to the group when it came to marks.  It provided an incentive for the students who understood the math better to work with the student who didn't.  It effectively made it feel like I only needed to get to 13 students during work sessions instead of the 39 that I was trying to get to at the beginning.  I say I want to go back and do-over because I have learned so much about teaching students how to work collaboratively since then.  It did work well but it could have worked so much better if I would have put some energy in to building skills around working in a group. 
The point being that community building does not have to occur separate from curriculum and that it can also be done beyond elementary school.  The Daily 5 Literacy Framework example outlined on Checkpoint 7.1 is another example of how it can be embedded in to what is already going on in the classroom.  All students benefit when time is taken to front-load routines and teach the social skills that are embedded in to functioning in a classroom.
Respecting Diversity Program: In the book Teaching to Diversity: The Three Block Model of Universal Design for Learning, Jennifer Katz introduces the Respecting Diversity Program.  This program can be delivered to any age of students.  It includes nine lessons that guide students through a process of exploring diversity through Gardner's Multiple Intelligences.  There are lessons in the program that speak directly to the benefit that diversity can bring to group work.  There are also lessons that have students examine their "weaker intelligences" and how they can use their strengths to compensate fore them.  The ninth lesson explicitly addresses disability as one aspect of the diversity spectrum.  The videos below give an explanation of each of the lessons.  The last video is the most important one to watch to get an idea of what the program is about as it speaks to how this programs builds understanding around diversity that results in students feel safe to be individuals.  It also speaks to how discussions can be extended to any other type of diversity that is present in the classroom.  This program does require that a teacher set aside specific time.  The book speaks to some possibilities to create that time at different grade levels. 

Extending the Checkpoint to Students with Complex Needs

Note: The ideas listed in this section are ones that are often considered to be accommodations, interventions or supports for students with disabilities.  Many of these ideas reflect needs that may also exist for students who do not have disabilities so it is wroth considering these ideas as sitting along a continuum and recognizing that some version of what is here could be applied to any student who displays a similar need.

Zones of Regulation: From the front of the Zones of Regulation: A Curriculum Designed to Foster Self-Regulation and Emotional Control book: "The Zones of Regulation is a conceptual framework used to teach students self-regulation. Creating this type of system to categorize the complex feelings and states students experience improves their ability to recognize and communicate how they are feeling in a safe non-judgemental way.  It also allows students to tap in to strategies or tools to help them move between zones. The Zones of Regulation categorize states of alertness and emotions in to four colored zones: Blue, Green, Yellow and Red."  This is a curriculum that could be followed with a group of students who need more intensive support related to understanding and managing their bodily state, emotions and social interactions.  The curriculum includes many activities and visual supports to scaffold the process of learning self-regulation and emotional control for those who need extra support with this. 

The incorporates strategies from many other behavioural/social thinking approaches including Ross Greene's belief that "Kids do well if they can", The Alert Program, The Incredible 5 Point Scale, and Social Thinking (aka Social Behavioural Mapping).  From my experience to this point, I would say that depending on the needs of specific students some of these other materials might be valuable for supplementing the Zones curriculum.  For example, the Alert Program might provide the opportunity in to deeper investigation around individual sensory needs as well as a visual representation that is better understood for younger students (although the fact that the Zone colors match to signs also provides a solid visual representation within the program).  One of the nice things to the 4 point scale that the Zones curriculum used is that the Zone that the student is trying to get back to is a Zone in the middle so it allows for being "under-regulated".  The 5 point scale, on the other hand, has students aiming for being in the bottom zone and doesn't really account for the "under-regulated" part of a scale.  

As an extra, this "The Sensory Break Center" blog post explains how the framework and visual supports that can be used to set up a structure for students to take breaks in a sensory break center.

Although the curriculum is fantastic, I believe it is important to involve an OT in creating a sensory diet for students who have significant sensory needs.  For those who are supporting students to regulate, it is important to have a basic understanding of what deep pressure, proprioception and vestibular sensory activities are as well as what is the potential impact of these activities.  With a student who has extensive sensory needs he/she may need a combination of a proactive sensory diet (pre-scheduled specific activities throughout the day created by the support team that includes an OT) and a way to respond to the way he/she is feeling throughout the day (this is the part that the Zones curriculum would cover).

Visual Supports: Many students with disabilities are strong visual learners and thrive on consistency, routine and clear expectations.  Visual supports enable students to complete routines and work more independently.  This Pinterest Board on Supporting Independence has links to many different ways to use visuals to support student independence. 

Facilitating Friendships: In the book Seeing the Charade: What We Need to Do and Undo To Make Friendships Happen, Carol Tashie, Susan Shapiro-Barnard and Zach Rossetti begin their book with an examination of the many current practices and beliefs that potentially create barriers to authentic friendship for students with disabilities.  Some of the themes of their extensive list include:
  • How we structure supports and develop student programs: This includes the unintentional messages we send to other students by pulling a student out of class for services and interventions or by having them only join the class for the 'courses that they can handle' and then placing them in a program class the remainder of the time. 
  • The role of the learning assistant: One-on-one learning assistants can be barriers to friendships as outlined in the article "Be Careful What You Wish For: Five Reasons to be Concerned About the Assignment of Individual Paraprofessionals".  It is important to recognize that this is not about not having the support of paraprofessionals but rather about what their job is. Again, the best explanation of this actually comes from an outside source and can be found here: The Exceptional Role of the One-on-One Learning Assistant.  How a learning assistant facilitates the opportunities for a student to develop friendship is what needs to be considered. 
  • Beliefs about Disability, Special Education and Inclusion:  What we believe and model about these things in the general sense gets interpreted by students in their current from of reference.  Believing that special education and general education are separate entities sends the message that the students within those systems are not the same and creates relationships barriers. 
  • Focusing on Help Rather Than Support: "Nothing about me without me" is an important saying to keep in mind in this field.  Sometime we put peer structures in place that we believe will help the student but they end up creating barriers to true friendships.  The way we structure things like peer buddy systems, peer supports, friendship clubs needs to be carefully considered and these structures should not be mistaken for authentic relationships.  Emma Van der Klift and Norman Kunc's article Hell Bent on Helping: Benevolence, Friendship and the Politics of Helping is a very important read on this topic. 
To overcome these barriers we need to be mindful of the impact of our practices and work to create the opportunity for relationships within the larger community structures that exist.  We need to get to know a student beyond their disability and find ways to connect them using that knowledge.  We need to look to peers for guidance and ideas and direction because they know the culture and the possibilities better than we do.  We need to ensure there are opportunities for authentic joint activity rather than to create helper-helpee situations and relationships.

Nurturing Narratives:  Communities have stories and members of the community are able to share those stories. Safety is rooted in feelings of belonging. It is important to facilitate opportunities for students with complex needs to communicate not only their needs and wants but also their stories.  Being able to tell stories involves both comprehension and conversation skills.  Some students need supports to develop these skills.  The book Coaching Comprehension, Creating Conversations: Nuturing Narratives outlines a story-based language intervention approach for students with language impairments such as autism spectrum disorder.  This is a scaffolded process that allows student the opportunity to tell their stories and telling stories draws people in to community. 

Communication Circles: One way to decrease social demands for a student with Complex Communication Needs (CCN) is to ensure that the student has a way to communicate that is understood by the peers that he/she needs to interact with to be a part of the classroom community. One way to do this, at the same time as increasing purpose and engagement for the AAC user is to create a communication circle where students play an active role in supporting the development of AAC skills.

Dr. Caroline Musselwhite defines the purpose of a communication circle as "to promote follow through in use of assistive technology. They are an extension of the peer tutor model, with peers working as a team with the AAC user and professionals to plan and carry out activities."  In this blog post, she outlines some examples and following features of a successful communication circle:
  • Responsible Adult Providing Support: It makes a huge difference if one person is 'in charge' with others providing back-up!
  • Peers Highly Motivated: Selecting peers for the circle is important. we have had best success when the teacher provides a list of 'approved' students, then the students who uses AAC selects who he/she wants. That way, peers feel valued and the student using AAC feels empowered!
  • Consistency and Clear Goals: It is crucial to give very clear goals to the peers. It is easy for meetings to degenerate into student having 'side' conversations and now staying on task. Clear goals and agenda help!
  • Homework: The work of the Communication Circle MUST extend beyond a monthly meeting if it to be more than just a social support. Follow-up goals should be clear, such as modeling, scaffolding interviews, and simply engaging in conversations using clear turn-taking roles. 
More resources and information on Communication Circles can be found at the following links:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

UDL Checkpoint 7.1

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Checkpoint 7.1: Optimize individual choice and autonomy

The Checkpoint on the Universal Design Level

The CAST website lists the following general suggestions for Checkpoint 7.1:  
  • Embed choices related to perceived challenge, types of rewards/recognition, context, content, tools, materials, final product, sequence, space, resources...etc. in to curriculum. 
  • Work with students to create personalized activities and/or tasks that will meet the curriculum objective.
  • Work with students to set, evaluate and respond to personal goals and/or project timelines.   
When it comes to student choice, it is worth giving some thought to both quality and quantity of the choices that students are given.  Barry Schwartz gave a great Ted Talk entitled "The Paradox of Choice" where he examines living in a world that may be too full of choices.  He speaks to the possibility of being paralyzed by choice.  

At the end of the talk, Schwartz states that "everybody needs a fishbowl" and then leaves viewers with the question of the what the size of the fishbowl should be in order to balance the positive effects of choice with the positive effects of boundaries, direction and support.  This is reflective of the concept of "Zone of Proximal Development" (Vygotsky).  When we give students assistance with planning, organizing, doing and/or reflecting on specific tasks, they are able to extend their learning beyond what they could have done without that assistance.  The key is to ensure that the task that we are asking a student to do is within the range of what they are capable of doing with assistance but beyond what they are capable of doing without. Scaffolding techniques might include task definition, direct or indirect instruction, specification and/or sequencing of activities, provision for materials, equipment, facilities, and other environmental considerations. It is about providing the right supports, at the right time, in the right place. 

Technology has huge potential in extending the "green circle" in the above diagram a lot further out for some students.  The article Welder with Dyslexia manages to earn his ticket appeared in The Province a few days ago and speaks to the a deeper understanding of what "access to learning" means.  It speaks to the importance of thinking "compensatory strategies" to access content areas when working with a student with print-based learning disability.  This student neither had choice or autonomy in a school program that appears to have focused mainly on remediation of skill.  Once he had support in the form of another person reading the material to him, he was able to extend himself as a learner and then once he had support in the form of computer assisted reading, he was able to extend himself as an independent learner.  When we think about scaffolding learning, it is important to step back and consider if we are scaffolding the skill or the learning.  I believe there is a need to do both but to do them in the appropriate context.

The Daily 5 Literacy Framework is an excellent example of a proactive approach that allows for a balance of choice and autonomy but also creates a structured "fishbowl" that students can learn within.  The framework is based on the six foundational elements of trust, choice, community, sense of urgency, stamina, and staying out of the way.  Teachers begin the year by working with students to define and develop the daily habits of reading, writing and working with peers.  The class then practices these habits and builds their stamina and sense of urgency.  Students are allowed choice in the literacy work they are doing and this is supplemented by mini-lessons and small group or individual conferencing that will continue to extend their literacy skills.  The framework includes an extensive tracking system for the teacher so that each student is able to work at their level on their own goals. The ultimate goal is a "lifetime of independent literacy".

The structured approach to learning "literacy behaviours" ensures that the processes and social structures are soundly in place before moving on to actual literacy skills.  There is a lot of upfront work, but in the end it means that each student is developing the skills they need to be developing at that specific time. Although it is a literacy framework, the scaffolding approach and focus on learning the routines and social interactions could be applied to a number of different areas.  Structures like this provide the "fishbowl" that ensures that student choice is not paralyzing. 

Extending the Checkpoint to Students with Complex Needs

Note: The ideas listed in this section are ones that are often considered to be accommodations, interventions or supports for students with disabilities.  Many of these ideas reflect needs that may also exist for students who do not have disabilities so it is wroth considering these ideas as sitting along a continuum and recognizing that some version of what is here could be applied to any student who displays a similar need.

This is an important checkpoint for students with complex needs, particularly those with complex communication needs.  This is a population of students who often do not have a lot of choice or autonomy in their lives.  To prepare them for their futures, it is important to pay explicit attention to allowing choice, and developing communication and self-advocacy skills. 

Self-advocacy in IPP/IEP:  A student's IPP/IEP provides the perfect forum for developing self-advocacy skills.  The website I'm Determined has a lot of great resources related to developing self-advocacy skills and facilitating participation in the IPP/IEP meetings for students of all "levels of disability."  The video below outlines some of the focus of the project:

Self-directed Subject Area Projects:  The post Differentiated Instruction: University Style on the blog Beyond the Crayon outlines an approach used to personalize and present content tied to a university level course.  I think the most important part of the post is the statement about how this could be used as a universal strategy by opening up the option for an individualized project to all students.  To support individualized projects with the students that I have on my caseload, I am in the process of making Pinterest boards related to specific chapters in the curriculum that students are taking. This provides a starting point for creating personalized projects or activities that are related to the curriculum objectives that are being covered. The visual component of Pinterest also helps with choice making processes for students who use visually-based communication systems.

Behaviour as Communication and Advocacy: Communication is critical to the development of choice-making and autonomy and many students who have communication challenges will initially use "behaviour" as a way to communicate their choices or advocate for themselves.  I will not go in to this one in a lot of detail here but I think it is important to explicitly state that when we try to extinguish behaviours rather than support and teach the student to find a more appropriate way to communicate, we are taking away the very small voice the student has in the situation.  We need to treat behaviour is an opportunity to figure out what will motivate a student to continue to develop their communication system.

Communication Passports: The video below outlines some important information about person centered planning, self-advocacy and communication for students with complex needs.  At 3:25, the "Communication Passports" is introduced as an integral part of the person-centered plan.  This is a written guide of how to interact with someone who has complex communication needs that does not yet use a more universal communication system.  A Communication Passport is an important document for facilitating choice making and autonomy but it is also important to continue to focus on developing a more robust and autonomous communication (as outlined below).

Access to Core Vocabulary: The type of vocabulary that we give students and the way we interact with them with their communication systems/devises impacts the level of potential autonomy that they will have in any given situation.  Below is an example of a "Core Vocabulary" and a "Fringe Vocabulary" board.  Core vocabulary is composed of high frequency words that are very versatile.  These words make up a large portion of the words we use in every day language.  Core words provide the basic architecture of our messages, and fringe words provide the customized detail.

With students with complex communication needs, we often create a variety of fringe vocabulary boards that will go with different activities rather than use a core vocabulary board.  This video speaks to the concerns around this...

This post - How Many Sentences Can You Make? - also does an excellent job of explaining how powerful having access to the right 20-25 core words can be for a student.  Rather than giving students access to only requesting or naming a handful of things, we are able to give them access to real learning if we use core vocabulary.  Some would argue that this is "above a student's head" but with proper scaffolding like that outlined in a resource like the Pixon Project Kit we can expose and interact with students using a system that has the potential to build communication and autonomy long term. 

Opportunities to Learn Social Language Use (Pragmatics): Pragmatics involves three major communication skills: (1) using language, (2) changing language, and (3) following social communication rules.  Mastering social language skills is important in developing self-advocacy skills.  P.O.D.D. (Pragmatic Organizational Dynamic Display) is both a communication system and a learning tool as the system relies on a "smart partner" who will model and guide the acquisition of pragmatic communication skills.  For students who have access challenges, this system also eliminates that barrier to communication as the only skill necessary to use the book is to have some indicator of yes and no or to be able to point.  The system does require that you live the mantra "input before output" for a very long time in some situations... but this really is no different from the fact that we talk for hours and hours and hours using verbal language to our babies before we expect to get the output. 

The use of a P.O.D.D. books allows for extensive opportunities to overlap the development of communication and social skills in to curriculum areas.  When defining new words in content areas there are extensive options to create a rich, descriptive definition at the same time as being exposed to both the process of using the communication system and the processes of communication.  When doing a writing assignment, the book can be used to generate sentences either autonomously or through a sequence of questions.  When participating in classes that include a lot of procedural work (art, cooking, science experiments), the book can be used to direct or respond to various steps in a process.  The extensive vocabulary included in the P.O.D.D. book opens up many choice, autonomy and communication goals for students and at times these will be a student's primary curriculum while the content of the subject that is being taken is secondary. 

Finally, although this resolution is written in a way that it singles out Down syndrome, it is a good reminder of where we should be aiming when we are cultivating self-advocacy skills in all students with "disabilities".

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Universal Design for Learning Principle III (Multiple Means of Engagement) Guideline 7 (Recruiting Interest)

About this UDL Series of Posts: I am looking to explore, connect to potential universal practice and individualized assistive technology practice (for the population of students that I work with) each of the guidelines as a summer blogging project.  This is my personal exploration of the "big picture" of how assistive technology for students with complex needs connects to a universally designed inclusive classroom.

Links to posts in this series follow:

Universal Design for Learning Principle I (Multiple Means of Representation) Overview
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle I (Multiple Means of Representation) Guideline 1 (Perception)
  • Universal Design for Learning Principal I (Multiple Means of Representation) Guideline 2 (Language, Expression and Symbols)
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle I (Multiple Means of Representation) Guideline 3 (Comprehension)
Universal Design for Learning Principle II (Multiple Means of Action and Expression) Overview
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle II (Multiple Means of Action and Expression) Guideline 4 (Physical Action)
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle II (Multiple Means of Action and Expression) Guideline 5 (Expression and Communication)
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle III (Multiple Means of Action and Expression) Guideline 6 (Executive Function)
Universal Design for Learning Principle III (Multiple Means of Engagement) Overview
Below is the second of a 12 post series.  As I finish each post, links will be added to the outline above.

Universal Design for Learning Principle III
Multiple Means of Engagement
Guideline 7: Recruiting Interest
In his book, Kaufman starts the chapter on passion by exploring intrinsic motivation. He examines Edward Deci and Richard Ryan's self-determination theory that speaks to our basic human needs of competence, autonomy and relatedness.
According to Edward Deci and Richard Ryan's self-determination theory (SDT), tasks that are intrinsically motivating satisfy the basic human psychological needs of competence (the desire to feel capable of mastery and accomplishment), autonomy (the desire to feel in control of one's decisions), and relatedness (a desire to feel a sense of connection with peers). A number of studies show that tasks that satisfy all three of these basic strivings lead to the highest levels of intrinsic motivation.
What does this equate to in practice for both students with and without "disabilities"?  How do we, as educators, create the conditions for learning that will facilitate intrinsic motivation in students?  Kaufman builds a case, through evaluating results of several experiments and theories in motivation, that the enhancement of contextualization, personalization and choice affect intrinsic motivation and this, in turn, affects mastery of concepts.

The UDL Checkpoints for Guideline 7 include:
These checkpoints have clear connections to the concepts of competence, autonomy, relatedness, contextualization, personalization and choice that Kaufmann writes about in his chapter on "passions" and give some insight in to the "how" of addressing this guideline. 

My intention had been to put information about each of the checkpoints in this same post but as I got writing, I realized the potential of that creating a very long and overwhelming post.  Instead, I have created a separate page for each of the checkpoints and linked them in the bulleted list above.  Following those links will bring you to a discussion about the checkpoint as well as universal and specialized practical applications of each checkpoint. 

Technology to Support Guideline 7
Options for Recruiting Interest

The following video is one of a series that outlines iPad apps that can be used for each of the Guidelines.  This particular video outlines how to use Symbaloo to support options for recruiting interest. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Universal Design for Learning Principle III (Multiple Means of Engagement) Overview

About this UDL Series of Posts: I am looking to explore, connect to potential universal practice and individualized assistive technology practice (for the population of students that I work with) each of the guidelines as a summer blogging project.  This is my personal exploration of the "big picture" of how assistive technology for students with complex needs connects to a universally designed inclusive classroom.

Links to posts in this series follow:

Universal Design for Learning Principle I (Multiple Means of Representation) Overview
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle I (Multiple Means of Representation) Guideline 1 (Perception)
  • Universal Design for Learning Principal I (Multiple Means of Representation) Guideline 2 (Language, Expression and Symbols)
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle I (Multiple Means of Representation) Guideline 3 (Comprehension)
Universal Design for Learning Principle II (Multiple Means of Action and Expression) Overview
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle II (Multiple Means of Action and Expression) Guideline 4 (Physical Action)
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle II (Multiple Means of Action and Expression) Guideline 5 (Expression and Communication)
  • Universal Design for Learning Principle III (Multiple Means of Action and Expression) Guideline 6 (Executive Function)
Universal Design for Learning Principle III (Multiple Means of Engagement) Overview
Below is the first of a 12 post series.  As I finish each post, links will be added to the outline above.
Universal Design for Learning Principle III
Multiple Means of Engagement

In the book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Scott Barry Kaufman proposes that "rather than focus on how to make people more motivated for the possibility of external rewards (such as money or grades), we should focus, instead, on creating the learning conditions, experiences and positive expectations that will make it more likely that students will both want and like to engage in school and in the world."  The section of the book dedicated to engagement is split in to three chapters: passion, mind-set and self-regulation. 

Interestingly, these three chapters tie fairly closely to the CAST UDL Guidelines for Principle III (providing multiple means of engagement). These three guidelines are related to (7) recruiting interest, (8) sustaining effort and persistence and (9) self-regulation.  Note the numbering system ties to the actual guidelines.  I'm starting with the third principle because it seems to me that motivation, engagement and participation is where we should be starting when we are talking about reducing barriers to learning for students.

One of the first books that I read when I first started exploring approaches to support inclusive education of students with complex needs is The Beyond Access Model: Promoting Membership, Participation, and Learning for Students with Disabilities in the General Education Classroom by Cheryl M. Jorgensen, Michael McSheehan and Rae M. Sonnenmeier.  The book outlines a model is a collaborative teaming model to designing and continually evaluating and refining inclusive programs for students with disabilities.  The model is based on three foundations: (1) the presumption of competence - this include presuming competence of the student but also presuming competence of all team members involved in supporting the student's participation and learning, (2) membership, participation and learning (this is what I'm going to expand on below), (3) collaborative teaming (because after all... it takes a village). 
The statement that first jumped out at me as I began to read this book was...
Many educators begin their planning for instruction by asking questions about how to modify the curriculum content and materials based on unwarranted lack of confidence in student ability.  These perceptions of students abilities are inaccurate, in part, because of insufficient AAC supports.  In doing so, there is a risk of the trap presented in Jay's story in Chapter 1.  'How do I modify a lesson on computing additions problems for a student functioning at the 2-year-old level' or 'How do I modify a fourth-grade novel to make sense for a student with low-functioning autism?'  These questions lead a teacher to create a version of the curriculum that is different from the one taught to students without disabilities and then to design ways to teach it that also may be different from the instructional plan for students without disabilities. 
Up to that point, as I tried to piece together the "how" of including students with significant disabilities, particularly those with complex communication needs, in general education classrooms, I had been asking the exact questions that I was reading in that moment.  As educators, we want to put our focus on student learning and this seems the right place to start. 

This book presented an alternative... prioritize context and learning processes before the content to be learned.  This means that the focus of the collaborative team in supporting a student is on ensuring membership (being part of the larger learning community) and participation (in academic, social and functional routines and processes).  By focusing here, the team is able to establish the conditions for learning that allow long-term focus on what we want to start with from the beginning. 

Learning becomes a result of membership and participation and from what I've seen with this approach to this point as we implement the philosophy behind this approach, it also shifts the motivation for learning from extrinsic to intrinsic. 

It was eye-opening to read the UDL guidelines meant for ALL students a few months after finishing this book as it was just one more indication that the theories and strategies related to learning for students with significant disabilities are just not different from the theories and strategies related to students without disabilities. 

And a post on motivation would seem incomplete if it didn't include Daniel Pink...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Reflecting on Our Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Course

We started the course by developing a personal definition of UDL as we understand it in that current moment.  My definition was a pretty standard textbook definition: 
"UDL is a framework for student learning that starts with the assumption of diversity and then, through intentional planning, minimizes barriers to learning and maximizes the number of students who are included, engaged and challenged.  UDL requires clarity of the true purpose of curricular goals so the materials and methods can be flexible and a dynamic assessment approach can be employed to increase the probability that individual learners will be learning in the way that is most effective and efficient for them." 
The concept was UDL was not new to me.  It is one that I've studied in some detail over the year and the underlying concepts are ones that I firmly believe in.  What was new was the process of focusing in on UDL exclusively for an extended period of time and trying to connect it to my personal experiences and context. It moved my thinking from UDL as a theory to wondering what it actually looks like in practice.   

One of the highlights of the course for me was a Skype session that the whole class did with Denise DeCoste about the UDL implementation work they have been doing in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland.  They have an amazing webpage that outlines their process and has resources related to the work they did with a year-long voluntary PLC process. To start the process, they defined four foundational elements of UDL:
  1. front-loading when planning to benefit a range of students
  2. teachers offering flexible methods and materials
  3. students having choice in tasks and tools
  4. students being engaged in their own learning and connecting with what they do
Defining foundational elements of UDL helps to build understanding of what this would look like in classrooms.  The Implementing Universal Design for Learning in Schools website that they have put together outlines a process that includes reflection and walk-through materials that teachers could use to work together as a PLC team to move towards putting these four foundational elements in to practice.  It was interesting that they decided to focus in on the choice and flexibility before moving on to the technology piece.  UDL is often associated with technology and it seems many initiatives to implement UDL start with the technology rather than the practice involved in UDL. Having the practice of choice and flexibility in place would allow the technology to be used in the flexible ways that it is meant to be used according to UDL philosophy. 

If I had to redefine UDL now, I think perhaps it would tie to the idea of "positive niche construction" that Thomas Armstrong talks about in his book Neurodiversity in the Classroom

Maybe the definition of UDL is as simple as creating that positive niche.  Maybe it's about defining "environment" as being more than the physical and then working towards "creating favorable environments in school within which all students can flourish."  Of course, as the video summarizes, there are many components to making this happen. 

The course has me wanting to get back home to look again at the book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman.  In this book, he talks about Experience Producing Drive (EPD) Theory.  And there it was the connecting quote: "According to the EPD theory, natural selection sculpted our genes so that we would be active agents of our environments, constantly seeking out situations that maximize our chances of survival and reproduction. In other words, we evolve to find the best environmental fit for our genomes. In Darwinian terms, that just may be the meaning of life."

Seeking out and building our niche is what we do in our lives.  In some ways, it is what drives our lives... as Kaufman says "it just may be the meaning of life".  It leaves one wondering though what happens when the environment we create in schools is not the environment that is the best environment to fit one's genome.  What long term impact does spending the formative years of one's life in an environment that is not a good fit have?  Is the answer to move them to a different environment or is the answer to continue to find more ways to create environments that students have enough flexibility and choice within so they can begin the process of figuring out how to impact their environment in way that will develop their genius?

Perhaps the part that I liked most about Denise DeCoste's presentation was that in their implementation process they were not trying to "build Rome in a day".  They were simply trying to lay some foundational elements of UDL at the same time as providing the PLC environment for those doing the implementation to explore their beliefs and practices.  They took it one lesson at a time.  What could we change so one more person would have access to learning rather than what can we change so everyone can have access to learning?  It's manageable and it speaks to the fact that a "niche" is not just physical but extends to the interactions within that environment and that the process is about creating a positive niche for all members who must thrive in that environment.

At the end of the course, I would like to say that I have a nice tidy definition of UDL but the bottom line is that my definition was a whole lot more tidy at the beginning then it was at the end... which is not necessarily a bad thing.  

At the end of the course, I am also feeling that I would like to focus a lot of my blog posts this summer on the how part of some of those flexible methods, materials and choices that could be present in tasks and tools.  There are great starting points for me to explore this like the UDL Toolkit Wiki and Mickie Mueller's Free Technology Tools for Teachers Live Binder and Matt Bergman's Learn-Lead-Grow Blog. I'm just looking at this point to use my blog to share tools and technology we already use and explore in to some new areas. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Way You See the Problem is the Problem

Today's post is a combination of a lot little pieces that might not yet fit together.  I've spent some time the last few months looking to expand my scope and understanding of "disability" beyond the work that I do with students who have complex needs.  It started with exploring the social/emotional/behavioural realm but I found a lot of that crossed over in to the digging I do around the students that I work with.  Then it expanded in to another realm... the realm of learning "disabilities".  The best place to start to learn about something is to go to the source so I began reading books written by those with those more "high incidence disabilities" like ADD/ADHD and dyslexia (aka print disabilities).  Three books in this area resonated with me: The Drool Room by Ira SocolLearning Outside the Lines by Jonathan Mooney and Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined by Scott Barry Kaufman

The recurring advocacy theme in these books is that our school systems are not always set up to play to the strength of these students. That, in fact, our school systems focus on their deficits so much that it impacts some students so much that they have no sense of efficacy of themselves as learners in any realm and that some even question their value of their entire life. I have been reading a lot of Dave Edyburn's work on "technology enhanced learning" in preparation for the internship that I am planning for my masters program.  His work speaks to finding ways to ensure that all students are engaging in and have access to the process of learning.  He speaks often of the current "achievement gap" that we see in schools:
"The achievement gap is a well documented problem in schools. In practical teams the problem can be illustrated as shown in the below figure. The diagonal line illustrates the expected level of achievement of students: one year of academic achievement for each year in school. However, the dotted line illustrates the pattern of achievement for many under performing students: students of color, students with disabilities, students living in poverty, and students whose first language is not English. The area between the dotted line of performance by low achievers and the diagonal line of expected grade level performance is know as the "achievement gap".  The graphic reveals the cumulative effect of students' underachievement."

The most common justification that I hear for segregated programs is that "the gap just gets bigger and bigger" and we need to offer "these students" a place where they can work "at their own level".  If you look at achievement gap data, it is clear that the gap does get bigger and bigger but what we still need to find is the right balance between remediation and compensation.  Each of the people in the three books that I highlighted above was labeled with a learning disability and put "in" special education during their school years.  Each of those three people have gone on to achieve some pretty high academic levels in post secondary institutions. Some would say that is a sign of our system working but if you read their narratives, what they went through doesn't sound like working to me.  They all seem to have found their strengths despite the constant focus on their deficits. 

Carol Dweck often uses this Benjamin Barber quote in his presentations: "I don't divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures, those who make it or those who don't.  I divide the world into learners and non-learners."  I think this gives us a window in to where we should be aiming in education. How do we ensure that students have access to learning?  Perhaps that requires that we define what learning is.  It seems it should be simple but there are so many factors that contribute to learning. 

There are all the factors related to our physiology - the processing of sounds, visual spatial information, motor sequences and the regulation of our sensations. 

There are all the factors tied to the development of our social and emotional thinking.  Factors like attention, engagement, trust, skills in interactions, communication, how we problem solve, how we apply ideas within the social world, comparative thinking, reflective thinking...etc. 

And then there is the stuff that we tend to focus in school - the cognitive functions like reading and listening comprehension, how we express our ideas both orally and in writing, logical thinking and reasoning and organizational skills. 

If a child is struggling with writing there are so many factors that can come in to play. Perhaps there are barriers at the physiological level with visual-spatial or motor sequencing skills.  Perhaps the barriers are more tied to the social-emotional realm... things like attention or using the appropriate voice.  And that doesn't touch on all the barriers that might be associated with the cognitive processes that we tend to focus on "fixing" through remediation or intervention.   

I'm not opposed to an appropriate dose of remediation or intervention but is it perhaps these other layers of the learning process that give us insight in to other paths we might take to reach the goal of learning?  Do we limit learning if we over-focus on instruction and practice with the goal of students being able to hold factors or problem solving steps in memory rather than looking for ways to engage students in the learning experience?

I once read somewhere that most jobs that can be turned in to a routine are being off-shored or automated.  This speaks to the need for us in education to focus on facilitating the growth of "expert learners" so that our students will be able to respond to the world they will live in as adults.

I'm not going to find an answer today but the narratives of the people I talked about have me thinking about what learning is and how important it is for students to see themselves as moving towards becoming expert learners.  It seems to me that this involves adapting a 'never-give-up' approach that involves thinking outside the box of remediation or intervention in helping a student to achieve.  This is ideas like creating a continuum of supports and services rooted in concepts of natural supports, "technology enhanced learning", Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and Response to Intervention (RtI) come in to play.  

All of these ideas speaks to the opportunity and possible long-term impact of facilitating the right supports for learning at the right time and in the right places.  When we focus our efforts on finding ways to keep students in their current learning environments we begin to look for ways to reduce barriers to learning that may exist in that environment not just for that individual student.  This means that we can positively impact a student's sense of efficacy which results in the engagement that will allow that student to build expert learner skills.  It shifts our focus to working together to figure out the best way to facilitate learning.  This quote from the book Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined speaks to what happens if we don't start to think about the "rebranding" that is referenced in the beginning image of this post.  What are the strengths that a student possesses that will build that bridge to learning and get him/her engaging rather than avoiding? 
The environment can take even a tiny genetic or environmental advantage and "multiply" it again and again as such interactions are reiterated through the course of one's development.  The other side of the coin is also possible, of course.  A slight genetic or environmental disadvantage can lead a youngster to avoid situations where the difficulty would be revealed. Yet those are precisely the situations that would enable the child to practice the task and make up for the disadvantage. Instead, the child misses the boat while peers sail off ahead.
I'm ending this on with a thought from Carol Dweck about the power of the word "yet" as  I think this is a critical piece for both students and us as adults.  We may not know all the details of reducing that achievement gap YET. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Non-Produtive Failure is Not An Option

The statement "failure is not an option" is one that comes up often in inclusive education.  One reads about presuming competence, intervention strategies, front-loading, scaffolding techniques, strategy instruction, supports, assistive technologies.  All of these things point to the goal of learning success. 

This morning, I came across a great post on the Science Behind How We Learn New Skills.  One quote in particular resonated with me in the middle of a time when the noise is getting louder and louder about educational transformation and change:
"We’ve heard a lot lately about the benefits of experiencing and overcoming failure. One way to get these benefits is to set things up so that you’re sure to fail—by tackling a difficult problem without any instruction or assistance. Manu Kapur, a researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore, has reported (in the Journal of the Learning Sciences) that people who try solving math problems in this way don’t come up with the right answer—but they do generate a lot of ideas about the nature of the problems and about what potential solutions would look like, leading them to perform better on such problems in the future. Kapur calls this “productive failure,” and you can implement it in your own learning by allowing yourself to struggle with a problem for a while before seeking help or information."
It seems a bit counterproductive sometimes. Our accountability measures in education are set up in a way that often forces us to think about the product rather than the process and yet here is a emerging research that demonstrates that going through the process and never getting to the product can have positive impacts on overall learning of concepts. 

But can "failure is not an option" also send messages tied to perfection rather than progress?  Can it lead to thinking in terms of "streaming" or remediating rather than compensating?  Perhaps it depends which way we see failure...

In the article Failure is Not An Option: Collecting, Reviewing and Acting on Evidence for Using Technology to Enhance Academic Performance Dave Edyburn introduces the concept of "naked independence".  He states that "Education places a premium on knowledge that is contained in one's head. Performance that is completed without the aid of external devises and resources is prized over performance that is dependent on tools or resources."  Edyburn argues that this approach devalues the performance of those who rely on "cognitive tools" to get to solutions. 

He outlines a scenario where a student is having difficulty completing algebra problems in math class.  The "intervention" used to allow the student to use the WebMath Website when he is completing his work.  The task switches from a paper and pencil task with mathematical steps to an inputting information in to a website and recording the answer task.  Does it require the same mathematical understanding to complete the assignment this way?  Is it 'cheating'?  Is it fair? 

Perhaps the more pressing might be is it better to have a student achieving significantly below what others are achieving around him without supports or to have a student be able to come up with the answers with supports?  Do we create thinking patterns that are reflective of the graphic above that result in students that have no sense of efficacy of themselves as learners if we leave them to their "naked independence" and have them either failing over and over again or removed to a life skills or remediated program?  In the end, if a student is unable to do something with "naked independence" is it better for them to not be able to do it at all or to be able to do it with the help of a "cognitive tool"? 

There are many unanswered questions but the bottom line is that we now have some of the technologies that would allow students to complete the tasks that cannot do without tools.  Do we deny them the use of these because of our beliefs about fairness or cheating?  Is it representative of the world we are preparing them for to assess them on being able to complete tasks with naked independence?  Is there something in all of this that will facilitate in ourselves and our students a growth mindset?  

I am down to two more terms before I finish my Masters.  This fall is an internship and in the spring we will be working on our Capstone.  Somewhere in the middle of these thoughts sits some of what I would still like to explore before this is done...  

I do not fail.
I succeed in finding out
what does not work.